Thanks to each of the hundreds of North Alabama United Methodist clergy and laity who participated in the Fall District Listening Sessions over the past three months. Since our Ministry Action Plan will continue to be shaped and revised throughout the Spring, we will have additional Listening Sessions during the first quarter of the new year. Our hope is that after nine months of listening, dialoguing and revising, we will be ready at Annual Conference 2014 to adopt a Ministry Action Plan that clearly states North Alabama Methodism’s vision, mission, values, principles and priorities. This will set the focus for our ministry together over the next several years.
How have the operational team and I felt about the tenor of our Listening Sessions? We have been moved and inspired by the way North Alabama United Methodists have embraced the call to “Deep Change.” However, we are not surprised by your response. After all, “Deep Change” is more than a book title by author Robert Quinn. It is a lifelong journey that begins for Christ-followers the moment that we initially enter into relationship with Jesus Christ and continues for as long as we live. (See II Corinthians 5:17 and Romans 12:2) It applies to churches, districts and annual conferences as well as to individuals.
What will “Deep Change” look like for us in North Alabama? The operational team I lead is still discerning the specific answers to that question. This is what we know. It will involve developing additional spiritual clergy and lay leaders who transform the world. It will include creating healthy environments where God’s transforming work happens. It will require processes that produce fruit. It will mean understanding and living out of principles that guide all we do. It will happen in the context of teams of clergy and lay leadership holding each other accountable to high standards.
How will the listening sessions affect the Ministry Action Plan? The operational team is now reviewing and refining the many excellent insights that we gained from the Fall Listening sessions. I plan to post the “refined version” of the Ministry Action Plan on the Conference website in early December. Though that will not be the final version of our vision, mission, values, principles and priorities, it will bring us a step closer to the product that the operational team finally offers to the members of Annual Conference 2014.
Why is developing this Conference Ministry Action Plan a priority? Because we believe that God has called us to “Deep Change” as an Annual Conference. The next version of our Ministry Action plan will provide a pathway on which we can journey together to live into that calling. We expect the Ministry Action Plan to keep improving as we continue to practice our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Again, thank you for your part in this process of clarifying our vision, mission, values, principles and priorities. May each of us be ready to change in whatever ways God leads us in order to move at an accelerated pace in the direction God has called us. In the meantime, keep doing the wonderful ministry you are doing in your churches and communities. As always, it is a joy to serve as your bishop.
Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett